Developer Mark Irgens said construction work could begin by the middle of next year on the redevelopment of the former M&I Bank headquarters building in downtown Milwaukee. Irgens, who is chief executive officer and manager of Milwaukee-based Irgens Partners LLC, said he hopes to start work in the first half of 2022, assuming that the building obtains federal historic designation and his firm solidifies a financing plan. Irgens Partners owns the former M&I Bank building, located at 770 N. Water St. If the National Park Service deems the building historic, Irgens Partners could get federal historic tax credits to help finance the building's conversion to affordable housing. Irgens said his firm has engaged with an architect and general contractor, and also has a good idea what it will cost. He did not get into specifics beyond that. His comments came on Thursday morning during BizTimes Milwaukee's annual Commercial Real Estate and Development Conference. In a follow-up email statement, Irgens said the goal is to start interior demolition in April. To do that, Irgens Partners will want to have financing in place or at least firmly committed, he said. "We are working on several financing alternatives, all which seem realistic and achievable," he said. This would put the project on pace for a completion of April 2024. That includes six months of demolition and 18 months of construction. Andy Spataro, development director of Irgens Partners, said the building received an initial NPS approval in 2019. Irgens Partners' application for "part two" of historic designation is under review. This August, the State Historic Preservation Review Board approved its listing on the State Register of Historic Places. "We expect the building to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the coming month," Spataro said in an email. Jeff Joeckel, an archivist with the National Register of Historic Places, said the agency has until next week Monday to make a determination. Irgens Partners plans to convert the old office building into 237 residential units. Irgens said the sixth floor where M&I executives once sat will become an amenity floor. Crews will deconstruct it, remove the asbestos and rebuild it with kitchens, lounges and a co-working space for residents. The company would likely pursue low-income housing tax credits along with the historic tax credits to help finance the project, Irgens said. But the building's redevelopment will be expensive due to its current state. Irgens said the building has asbestos fireproofing throughout. Crews will need to remove the material "at a fairly large price tag." The tax credits are important in making the overall project feasible, he said. It totals 332,905 square feet and was built in 1967, according to city records. The designer of the 21-story building was Grassold, Johnson, Wagner & Isley, and the builder was Hunzinger Construction Co., according to Wisconsin Historical Society records. It was built in the international style as the corporate headquarters and main banking branch for Marshall & Ilsley Bank (M&I). It most recently housed BMO Harris Bank offices and a retail bank branch. Last year, BMO moved its office and bank branch employees into the new BMO Tower next door, at 790 N. Water St. BizTimes detailed Irgens' historic-designation application back in March. It could join the ranks of older downtown office towers being converted into housing. Others include the Sentinel Building at 225 E. Mason St. and the River Bank Plaza at 740 N. Plankinton Ave. "The (M&I) building has small floorplates for offices, so it lends itself well to residential," Irgens said. "We think having a residential tower in that part of downtown, with all the walkable amenities … that it looks good."
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